Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Polarised opinions on Dotcom's Internet Party

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Kim Dotcom at the launch of his Internet Party. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Kim Dotcom at the launch of his Internet Party. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Love him or loathe him - there's no doubting Kim Dotcom knows how to make an impression. The launch of his Internet Party yesterday has only added to the vast array of differing opinions and perspectives on everything to do with Dotcom, his politics and business ventures.

A successful launch or a bland non-event?

Dotcom's capacity for getting headlines and media coverage continued, unsurprisingly, with yesterday's party launch. The success of the event is best covered in Adam Bennett's Dotcom on track to 500 members. There was certainly much to be impressed with - including the unveiling of a dynamic website and an innovative iPhone app.

There was also an interesting satirical video launched - see the 10-minute Project: Manifesto - which received mixed reviews, including Wired magazine's description of it as 'a slightly cringeworthy video featuring a Barack Obama and a John Key (New Zealand's PM) impersonator'.

But in many ways the party launch was surprisingly low-key and underwhelming, with nothing particularly unexpected or exciting revealed. That was the view that I gave in a TVNZ interview, reported in Uncertainty around what Dotcom's party actually stands for.

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Amongst all of the media coverage of the launch, one of the most interesting items was Heather du Plessis-Allan's 6-minute Seven Sharp's item, The DotCom Spectacle. See also, David Farrar's The man who wants to pick the next PM.

The unveiling of the party's constitution and rules was also interesting - something I commented on in my blog post Will Dotcom's Internet Party be hijacked?, which deals with the fact that there is apparently little to stop hostile partisan opponents joining the party in an attempt to derail it. However, balancing this risk is the fact that the party's constitution actually affords very little democratic input from party members anyhow, as detailed by Russell Brown, along with other very interesting constitutional issues.

Does the party have exciting and innovative policies, or just bland platitudes?

The Internet Party's list of new policies has been expertly evaluated by independent internet and business consultant Lance Wiggs in his blog post Should anyone else adopt the Internet Party policies?. Wiggs judges some of the policies to be 'bland', one to be a 'red herring', and others to be highly recommended.

The NBR's Chris Keall also applies his technology expertise to the party's core policy about internet provision - see: Internet Party promises 50% cheaper broadband. He questions some of the economics behind it all.

For further evaluation of the party's list of policies, see Pete George's The Internet Party's 'Action Agenda'.

Will Dotcom's Internet Party fly or fail?

Nothing about yesterday's launch suggested any sort of 'game changer' for the party's flagging public support. Nonetheless, British publication The Week has just come out with Five reasons why Internet Party might succeed. These factors are related to: The Swedish Pirate Party's success, Winning over the disaffected, Serious investment, Kim's 'star power' and the Power of technology.

But is this enough? Not according to Mike Hosking, who says that Kim Dotcom hasn't a real cause to stand for. He elaborates on the need for a party to have a central political cause: 'So what has Dotcom got? Nothing. He's not articulating anything, he's not talked of anything substantive that people can hook into. Privacy issues? People don't vote on that. Privacy issues are a talkback topic, not a reason to vote'.

Pam Corkery begs to differ, and says that the Mogul may help us get real NZ back.

For more on the likelihood of Internet Party success, see Toby Manhire's No app yet for the scrutiny of politics.

Can the party get to the 5% MMP threshold or not?

Certainly the goal of getting to the 5% MMP threshold seems overly optimistic and perhaps even delusional. In the Laura Walters and Vernon Small article, Dotcom launches into National, a party press secretary is quoted about this goal: 'Mitchell said Dotcom was now "quite adamant" the party could achieve more than 5 per cent of the votes. "We've got to be confident and bullish about that".'

Could there still be a Mana-Dotcom alliance?

Any potential electoral alliance between the Mana Party and Dotcom was recently all but written off by Hone Harawira, due to the fact that Dotcom refused to rule out working with National after the election. But apparently responding to the tough talk from Mana, Dotcom now says he can't support John Key - see Newswire's Dotcom vows to never work with Key.

For the best recent analysis of the possible alliance, see Gordon Campbell's On Mana and Dotcom. For a more amusing take on the topic, see Claire Trevett's Harawira's dance with Dotcom a shortlived one.

What other MPs might jump ship? Or are there really none?

Dotcom and others in the party continue to insist that other MPs - apart from Hone Harawira - are looking to jump ship to the Internet Party, and that this includes a likely electorate MP. According to rightwing blogger, David Farrar, 'the claim is bullshit, and designed to make them seem relevant and undo the damage done from his vow to wind up the party and endorse another if not at 5% - see: The Dotcom claim of a sitting electorate MP.

Another blogger with doubts about the claim is Pete George who also makes an interesting point about the existence of such MPs: 'Making claims like this and refusing to elaborate for over two months has to raise doubts about the claims. It would be outlandish for MPs from other parties to commit to jumping waka and joining the Internet Party in three months time and in the meantime continuing with candidate selection processes in their current party, and continuing with their responsibilities to their party and their constituents in the meantime, including preparations for the election campaign. For any MP to continue in this situation for several while committed to a major betrayal of party trust is preposterous. An MP is being extremely deceitful, possibly several MPs. Or Dotcom is making false or exaggerated claims' - see: Questionable Dotcom claims, especially on MPs.

Is the Internet Party a Dotcom vanity project, or serious party?

Up until now, the Internet Party is been almost exclusively seen as synonymous with Kim Dotcom. And, of course, yesterday's launch was very much based around Dotcom and took place at his Coatesville home.

Many commentators have therefore questioned whether the party can operate as something more than vehicle for the personal ambitions of the IT mogul. Continuing in this vein is Duncan Garner with his blog post, Dotcom's Internet Party is a sham and a sideshow.

But might the Internet Party start to evolve into having a life of its own? Certainly that the position pushed by chief executive Vikram Kumar, who today did a 4-minute interview with TV3's Firstline in which he painted a future picture of a party separate to its founder - see: Internet Party not the Dotcom party, says chief exec. According to Kumar, 'At the moment they seem to be the same thing, but eventually they're not'. He elaborates: 'His role is to be the founder and financier, but it's up to the members and it's up to people who buy into that vision to actually create that party and take it forward.... He's not going to be the party leader or standing for Parliament. In a sense he's done his job already of founding the party and creating it'.

But as the TV3 article points out, 'the Internet Party's constitution lists Dotcom as 'party visionary', giving him a permanent spot on the party's policy committee, and explicitly states he cannot be removed from that position by a vote'.

Is there a smear campaign against Dotcom, or just serious revelations?

Controversial revelations about Dotcom's ownership of Nazi memorabilia are - depending on who you believe - either a smear campaign or a legitimate and indicative indication of Dotcom's politics.

Certainly Dotcom's biggest opponent, rightwing blogger Cameron Slater, is in campaign mode against him - see, for example, Kim Dotcom: Owns rare copy of Mein Kampf, a Nazi flag and loves Adolf Hitler. Other voices in the media are very much in synch with him. Today, gossip columnist Rachel Glucina reveals more in Former friend speaks out on life with Dotcom. As with Slater, Glucina has information from Dotcom's ex-employee and confidant, Alex Mardikian - in this case with allegations about a vanity film project that went embarrassingly wrong for Dotcom. Glucina also reports: 'Mardikian says, in his opinion, Dotcom wants the world to think he is a mastermind, but he is just out for himself. "Don't be fooled, New Zealand. He won't better your country. It's just about what he can gain for himself."'

TV3's Rebecca Wright has also applied some critical scrutiny in her 4-minute item on Dotcom for the Paul Henry Show - see: Former employee to Dotcom: Stay clear of politics. Not only does she give some challenging questions to Dotcom but also includes a brief interview with Dotcom's former head of security, Wayne Tempero, who says Dotcom's entry into politics is 'bad for New Zealand'.

Brian Edwards has provided the strongest defence of Dotcom's ownership of Mein Kampf - see: What a dreadful fellow this Kim Dotcom is!. He concludes with this: 'And this question hangs in the air? Would Dotcom have been asked the same questions if he were any nationality other than German? I very much doubt it'.

For some similarly intelligent analysis of the issue, see Grant Duncan's Hitler on the shelf, Danyl Mclauchlan's Dotcom's struggle, No Right Turn's Vaguely creepy, and the Southland Times' A little dark reading.

Finally, for humour and satire, see Ben Uffindell's Politicians scramble to dispose of their own copies of Mein Kampf, Scott Yorke's Leaked memo from the Internet Party's PR adviser and my blog post of Cartoons of Kim Dotcom's Internet Party.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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